Tuesday, April 30th, 2024

Circuit holds that federal supervised release only begins when the defendant is released from subsequent state custody, not when he is released from federal custody into state custody.

In United States v. Freeman, No. 23-6394 (2d Cir. April 23, 2024), the defendant was ordered to begin his supervised release almost ten years after his release from federal prison, when he was finally released from state custody on charges that were dismissed. Freeman argued that his supervised release term began upon his release from federal prison and was not tolled by his state detention. 18 U.S.C. 3624(e),  provides that “a prisoner whose sentence includes a term of supervised release after imprisonment shall be released by the Bureau of Prisons to the supervision of a probation officer” and that “supervised release commences on the day the person is released from imprisonment.” It further provides that the term of supervised release is tolled for any period in which the person is “imprisoned in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime” unless the sentence is less than 30 days. Id.

Second Circuit affirmed on the ground that “released from imprisonment” means release from any imprisonment, and therefore did not reach the tolling issue. The Circuit relied on language in United States v. Johnson, 529 U.S. 53 (2000), where the Supreme Court held that the supervised term was not reduced where defendant had over-served his sentence due to vacated convictions because the statute required that supervised release commence when the defendant is actually released, not when he should have been released. Although Johnson addressed a different question and dealt with an entirely federal sentence, the Circuit held that this language from Johnson governed here: “As these [dictionary] definitions illustrate, the ordinary, commonsense meaning of release is to be freed from confinement. To say respondent was released while still imprisoned diminishes the concept the word intends to convey.” Freeman, Slip Op. at *8.

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